"Anyone who says that economic security is a human right, has been to much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting disease and insects and weather and space and time, for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god — Society, The State, The Government, The Commune — must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he will learn how much security there is."
~ Rose Wilder Lane (1886—1968)
"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."
~ Charles Mackay (1814—1889)
Ancient Egypt along with much of the ancient world held that their present and past rulers were not merely men but gods.
The ancient Egyptians went further and had an enduring belief that it was possible to transfer to the image of a man, woman, animal, or any living creature, the soul of the being represented along with its traits, attributes and power. Thus, the statue of a god would contain the spirit and power of the god; the image or statue of the Pharaoh was the living spirit of the ruler which presupposed the physical presence; the authority, the influence, and supremacy of the Pharaoh.
That this philosophy had reached a state of absolute perfection throughout the ancient world can be attested to by two well-known events.
First: According to the Apocryphal Gospels when Jesus, Mary and Joseph arrived in Egypt, escaping Herod’s campaign of murder, there "was a movement and quaking throughout all the land and all the idols fell down from their pedestals and were broken in pieces."
This understandably unnerved the Egyptian priests and nobles who then inquired of a renowned priest with whom "a devil used to speak from out of the idol," the meaning of these sudden unexpected events. The priest then relates that the feet of the son of the "secret and hidden god" were on Egyptian soil. The Egyptian priests and nobles accepted the council and immediately manufactured a figure of this new god believing that in so doing they would harness at least a portion of the spirit of this very powerful "secret and hidden god" to come and dwell in it and be with them.
Second: When the Coptic Christians attacked the ancient temples and idols of Egypt they made every attempt to destroy the idols of the "pagan gods" reasoning that once shattered the spirits indwelling them would become homeless and more importantly powerless. This also accounts for much of the destruction of the ancient world’s religious literature, symbology, temples, and idols during the intervening ages, particularly in Greece, Rome and the Near East.
If one realizes that the ancient world’s "hierocracy" was the real power behind the ruling "hierarchy" and that the terms are interchangeable in describing the ruling class, one goes a long way to understanding what occurred in Rome at the end of the Republic.
Roman History Orientation
Roman Republic Established
133 BC to 31 BC
31 BC to 235 AD
235 AD to 284 AD
Totalitarian State to Western collapse
284 AD to 476 AD
The deification of the Roman emperor can be fully understood, as a political process using the only existing universal instrument (religion) that would promote the unification of the empire by producing a central, powerful, common god; conditions that cannot and will not exist among a people who are free to determine there own lives.
Whether the idea of deifying the Roman emperor was by design or chance can be hotly debated. There are some who state that the Romans were not given to deification of the ruler.
However, Louis Matthews Sweet in his historical work, Roman Emperor Worship, rightly states the obvious premise: "…[T]here is a sufficiency of positive evidence to show that the process of deifying men and of uniting gods and men in common life was as nearly native as anything Roman ever was. I adduce, first, the Trojan cycle, the presentation of which, in one way or another, forms the staple of Roman literature from beginning to end. The traditional founder of the Roman race was the son of Anchises and Venus Aphrodite. AEneas, therefore, was himself a demi-god, a divine-human being who is the reputed ancestor of a great Roman family, the Iulii. It is a fact, the significance of which can hardly be over-estimated, that Julius Caesar traced his lineage to the gods. My point here is that at the time when the Roman tradition was amalgamated with the early Greek, not absolutely primitive times so far as the Romans are concerned, but still very early, the tendency which expresses itself in deification was already in active operation. The impulse to claim kinship with the gods, to cross in one direction or the other the line which separates gods and men, was in the Roman blood as inheritors of the ancient Greek tradition."
Further, Dr. Sweet, points out that it would "be difficult to explain the rapid development and the ultimate magnitude of this system among the Romans were there not something in it inherently congenial to Roman thought and temper. We are not to forget, in this connection…that nowhere in all antiquity did the ruler-cult reach such power or attain so complete an organization, inner and outer, as among the Romans. All other studies of this cult are merely introductory and auxiliary to the supreme historic example of organized and systematic deification afforded by the Roman system. In this sense the cult is characteristically Roman."
As the individualism and independence of the Roman citizen came under assault by the growing Roman Empire, it left the population dazed, resulting in the destruction of self-reliance, self-determination and the self-confidence of a once free people. Even where similar deities were worshiped or where a fusion of differing belief systems with their individual gods had taken place, there was still confusion and lack of unification. However, most of the deities of the old Republic remained what they had always been, local and fixed.
What the Roman Empire needed was a means to unify the population and further destroy those fading pockets of individualism, bringing the whole empire into obedience as dutiful, subservient drones totally reliant on the state.
Out of the chaos of the Revolutionary period and into the emerging empire came the Roman legions deploying the emperor’s standards and coins bearing the emperor’s likeness, proclaiming the name, power and dignity of Rome’s master.
Every city, town and province elevated men to oversee the culture of the new worship with intricate rites, dazzling festal celebrations, public games, and somber sacrifices.
"The inevitable result was unification. The emperor’s name was carried throughout his vast dominions and his power known and felt everywhere. The center of this system is the imperial throne at Rome; it’s circumference the outermost boundaries of the empire, it’s radii, the countless major and minor officials who wear the livery and perform the rites of the deified emperor, and in so doing bind every community however remote and almost every individual, to the royal person by the two-fold bond of political loyalty and religious devotion. It is not too much to say that the only deity equally well-known in every locality of the Roman Empire was the emperor."
Even Augustus Caesar admits the power of this Roman cult when he wrote: "The senate decreed that vows be undertaken for my health by the consuls and priests every fifth year. In fulfillment of these vows they often celebrated games for my life; several times the four highest colleges of priests, several times the consuls. Also both privately and as a city all the citizens unanimously and continuously prayed at all the shrines for my health."
An added burden of being worshipped as a god was the emperor’s title of vicarious pater. Under Roman law the emperor was able to extend his godly authority and control over the Roman subjects as their substitute father. This enabled him to further tie the people to his will by supplying their every need, as Augustus again testifies: "From that year when Gnaeus and Publius Lentulus were consuls (18 BC), when the taxes fell short, I gave out contributions of grain and money from my granary and patrimony, sometimes to 100,000 men, sometimes to many more."
By the time of Emperor Domitian (81—96 AD) all pretense of the emperor being simply a man who was ruler was gone; as exhibited by Domitian who was renown for wearing a crown of gold on which was inscribed "Dominus et Deus" (Lord and God).
Emperor worship had accomplished its inevitable intent; it had destroyed the last vestige of Republican tradition which had once been so vibrant that for many years liberty could only intermittently be suppressed.
The days when writers could take it upon themselves to berate the ruling class as the poet Catullus did when attacking Julius Caesar, were replaced with complete editorial control.
The ruling class from which Julius Caesar came had lost the civility of Caesar. Those good manners of Caesar, as related by Suetonius in which "Caesar did not hide the fact that a permanent blot had been put on his name by the verses that Valerius Catullus had made about Mamurra. But when Catullus apologized, Caesar invited him to dinner that very day. And Caesar kept up his old friendship with Catullus’ father"; were replaced by the imposition of eternal exile or a slow, painful, agonizing death.
While it lasted, the period of the Roman Empire for the most part, was a grand economic bubble. In the case of the Roman Empire the great bubble ruptured in the second century when the divine emperor morphed into degenerate military despots. In the early part of the third century with plagues, earthquakes, inflation, economic collapse, a northern invasion and fifty years of social pandemonium, one gangster emperor followed another in rapid succession.
It was then that Rome became the totalitarian state of Diocletian, Constantine and their successors. The emperor cult died but it was a long, slow, protracted death which was accompanied by social uncertainty, torment, and injustice which culminated in the era of the dark-ages.
From the moment of the new president’s election we have been inundated with plates, coins and all sorts of "historical" memorabilia bearing the likeness of the new president; all reminiscent of a host of "modern" rulers who have constantly reminded their subjects, through printed, electronic, and poster media, who was at the helm of state.
Watching the inauguration last week, with the reverential adoration being heaped upon the new president, I couldn’t help but realize that we, like Rome, are facing the end of the American empire. Certainly the price tag that accompanied the last week’s inauguration and parties would have found acceptance in ancient Rome.
The rationale cannot be overlooked that where paganism exists, even among decadent monotheism, the state will spontaneously produce a deified emperor as witnessed by both the Lincoln and Martin Luther King cults of today.
America prides itself in electing a savior who proclaims "change," and "transparency" and who, like any supreme father, promises to unite the nation, cure the national ills while gladly supplying all the needs of poor dependent children in wanting; it occurs to me that many of the myths that accompanied the Emperor cult of ancient Rome are not far removed from the adulation many Americans have for their new president.
Nor will America escape that same disappointment felt when the Roman Empire had to face the grim realities of hyper-inflation, widespread poverty, and economic failure. The question is how much will we all have to suffer before the lesson is learned?
Catullus in his poem #30 asks a very pertinent question: "Do the deeds of deceivers please the gods above?"
My guess is we will soon learn the answer to both of these questions. As Charles Mackay stated, society will "recover their senses slowly and one by one." When it does another era of free, self-reliant, self-determined and self-confident people will begin.
That indeed is the way of history but the herd has to take a beating first.
Tim Case [send him mail] is a 30-year student of the ancient histories who agrees with the first-century stoic Epictetus on this one point: u201COnly the educated are free.u201D